What is the best tenant screening service?

27 Replies

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Originally posted by @Kenneth LaVoie :

I asked a web client of mine, who is a private investigator, if he could put togehter a "tenant screening package" for me and this was his response. (interesting stuff about the online verification especially regarding criminal check)
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Good morning Ken,

Appreciate the opportunity, however it is impossible to compete with online pricing whilst doing the job correctly, because they don't.

The online services you refer to do not actually do what they say. It is impossible for them to do so at the prices they quote. Here are some indisputable facts that none of these companies can overcome:

1.There is no accurate nationwide criminal record check available. The law enforcement version called NCIC is not available outside the non-law enforcement community.

2. I have seen online prices for credit and criminal checks at 15.95. Again, impossible. Here is a real life example, The State of Maine would charge $31.00 for a state wide criminal check for an out of state entity. That is not negotiable. A FCRA compliant credit check with release is going to cost you between 10 and 30 dollars. Those numbers are out of pocket, not including profit to whoever you use to do it. A Maine criminal check and an average costing credit check cost $50.00 out of pocket for anyone in the world. How can any service charge you only $15.95.

Here is a second and more likely example. A person who has lived in two states in the years prior. What if the person lived in NY for the past five years, and Maine for the years before. New York has a mandatory fee of $57.00 per request. Maine, as previously stated is $31.00. That is $87.00 out of pocket expenses before you even check credit, verify ss, etc. Some states do not offer a statewide criminal check, or the one offered is not accurate or up to date. In that case a county to county search must be done. The average person has lived or worked in 3-5 counties over the past 7-10 years. An average county cost is 20-25$, so a criminal check via the courts is going to run about $100.00 out of pocket. In states such as Maine, every court charges a mandatory search fee of $15.00 per name.

Be careful of the eviction claim. What you are being offered is an eviction that was collected upon in court. It does not include the many, if not majority of "get your *** outta here" evictions that show up no where except in calling the previous landlords. If you find a gap in residences, dig further.

Here is what I offer a client of mine in the gaming industry. They have strict standards but I offer you this as an example. I charge them $160.00 per.

Credit history
Name SS and address verification
Federal Civil, Criminal, Bankruptcy & Sex offender
State criminal 2 states included in price. (Yes federal and state criminal are two different places, the online folks do not even know that exists)

We also verify what we call the "bonafides" on the application such as previous employers etc.

Based on your needs, I could offer you the following for $100.00:

Credit history with signed release
Name, SS and address verification includes calling past landlords to verify eviction status and dates of residence.
Federal Civil, Criminal, Bankruptcy & Sex offender
Maine state criminal (Second state additional charges apply)

Yes I know this is more than you want to pay, but be careful with the online offers.

You could set up accounts and do the work yourself. Get an account with TRW or Equifax, they may charge you $9.99-19.99 per report depending on volume, Get an account with Informe.org in Maine and your cost for statewide criminal would be $21.00. You can verify name and SS by using one of the 15.95 intellius or tenant screening searches and call the previous landlords yourself. Your cost would be $47.00- $57.00 plus the time. Many sex offender registries are free, just takes time to locate and search. You may be lacking in the Federal criminal and civil which includes bankruptcy, but you would anyway if you paid and outside service...except for me of course.

At least you know you did it right. Remember, there is no nationwide criminal search and if someone you are considering is offering it, make them identify their sources. What they are selling is usually a publicly available list of department of corrections lists from state to state which is at best 50% accurate because many states do not participate nor does it tell the specifics of the matter.

Very interesting post.  I know this was posted 5-6 years ago, but if anyone still reads this, I got a question about TransUnion's SmartMove software on Biggerpockets.  In reference to the information above, is SmartMove's tenant screening legit and reliable?  What are it's sources and why is it reliable to use?

Originally posted by @Kenneth LaVoie :

I asked a web client of mine, who is a private investigator, if he could put togehter a "tenant screening package" for me and this was his response. (interesting stuff about the online verification especially regarding criminal check)
=====================
Good morning Ken,

Appreciate the opportunity, however it is impossible to compete with online pricing whilst doing the job correctly, because they don't.

The online services you refer to do not actually do what they say. It is impossible for them to do so at the prices they quote. Here are some indisputable facts that none of these companies can overcome:

1.There is no accurate nationwide criminal record check available. The law enforcement version called NCIC is not available outside the non-law enforcement community.

2. I have seen online prices for credit and criminal checks at 15.95. Again, impossible. Here is a real life example, The State of Maine would charge $31.00 for a state wide criminal check for an out of state entity. That is not negotiable. A FCRA compliant credit check with release is going to cost you between 10 and 30 dollars. Those numbers are out of pocket, not including profit to whoever you use to do it. A Maine criminal check and an average costing credit check cost $50.00 out of pocket for anyone in the world. How can any service charge you only $15.95.

Here is a second and more likely example. A person who has lived in two states in the years prior. What if the person lived in NY for the past five years, and Maine for the years before. New York has a mandatory fee of $57.00 per request. Maine, as previously stated is $31.00. That is $87.00 out of pocket expenses before you even check credit, verify ss, etc. Some states do not offer a statewide criminal check, or the one offered is not accurate or up to date. In that case a county to county search must be done. The average person has lived or worked in 3-5 counties over the past 7-10 years. An average county cost is 20-25$, so a criminal check via the courts is going to run about $100.00 out of pocket. In states such as Maine, every court charges a mandatory search fee of $15.00 per name.

Be careful of the eviction claim. What you are being offered is an eviction that was collected upon in court. It does not include the many, if not majority of "get your *** outta here" evictions that show up no where except in calling the previous landlords. If you find a gap in residences, dig further.

Here is what I offer a client of mine in the gaming industry. They have strict standards but I offer you this as an example. I charge them $160.00 per.

Credit history
Name SS and address verification
Federal Civil, Criminal, Bankruptcy & Sex offender
State criminal 2 states included in price. (Yes federal and state criminal are two different places, the online folks do not even know that exists)

We also verify what we call the "bonafides" on the application such as previous employers etc.

Based on your needs, I could offer you the following for $100.00:

Credit history with signed release
Name, SS and address verification includes calling past landlords to verify eviction status and dates of residence.
Federal Civil, Criminal, Bankruptcy & Sex offender
Maine state criminal (Second state additional charges apply)

Yes I know this is more than you want to pay, but be careful with the online offers.

You could set up accounts and do the work yourself. Get an account with TRW or Equifax, they may charge you $9.99-19.99 per report depending on volume, Get an account with Informe.org in Maine and your cost for statewide criminal would be $21.00. You can verify name and SS by using one of the 15.95 intellius or tenant screening searches and call the previous landlords yourself. Your cost would be $47.00- $57.00 plus the time. Many sex offender registries are free, just takes time to locate and search. You may be lacking in the Federal criminal and civil which includes bankruptcy, but you would anyway if you paid and outside service...except for me of course.

At least you know you did it right. Remember, there is no nationwide criminal search and if someone you are considering is offering it, make them identify their sources. What they are selling is usually a publicly available list of department of corrections lists from state to state which is at best 50% accurate because many states do not participate nor does it tell the specifics of the matter.

 The point that is being made here is many services are quick and easy and not to be totally trusted. Since 3/4 of the services use the same wholesale providers the data is the same no matter where you go, except they make it look prettier in some places. I know wholesale pricing and there is mark up on almost every service (like anything in life). The real data costs about $6.00 since 95% of the time it is only a super fast database lookup. So you have to ask yourself is that good enough? And if it takes a longer time the quality is most likely higher.

@Sarnen Steinbarth

Wow Sarnen, I really wasn't expecting anyone to answer my questions, thanks for the reply!

I was wondering if you could provide more details on why it's legit. Such as, if you compared TransUnion's software to another similar software that is NOT legit, what would be the differences?

@Clayton Rokosh

Well, I can't specifically talk to illegitimate services, but I can say that TransUnion is one of the major 3 credit bureaus in the US, they have a rental screening division in the Denver area, the've processed likely millions of tenant screening reports and is used by thousands of companies.

They are a reputable service that provides credit, criminal and eviction reports.

I use ***********.com. I email the prospective tenant a link to the ***********.com site. The tenant completes the form, pays the service directly for the background checks that I request. It is very easy to use and has a low fee for electronic contracts. 

Good luck!

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